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Monday, October 11, 2004

Gender gap?

Jeanne at Body and Soul has a great post-debate wrap-up where she explains why Friday's debate is going to lose Bush lots of female voters. She touches on a number of things, but was particularly touched by Kerry invoking the all-too-common dilemma of a teenage girl seeking abortion due to incest, and Bush's curt dismissal of that problem.

He has no moral problem with women dying because of his "simple" moral code. He has no moral problem with further abusing victims. It's pretty simple. It came right up. And that's just the way it is.

After Kerry's straightforward defense of women's lives, Bush sounded like he just didn't give a damn about us.

Women are going to turn that contempt right back on him.


Now I don't know about everyone who was watching the debate in mixed company, but in my living room, that moment caused everyone, male and female, feline and human, to gasp. But Jeanne thinks that, mixed with other things, caused the male/female voting gap to widen immediately.

Gallup, which notes that men and women had virtually identical responses to the first debate, sees a significant gender gap in the response to this one. By a three-point margin, men think Bush won the debate. By nine points, women favored Kerry.

It's hard not to conclude that this means that a larger percentage of men than women had the same reaction as Bush to impossible dilemmas like that of an incest victim having to get her victimizer's permission to get an abortion--they didn't give a shit.

Generally, it's expected that more women than men will be pro-choice; the possibility of having to terminate a pregnancy is more real to women, for one thing. For another, it's a control issue--women can be expected to vote for the right to control their own bodies in larger numbers than men who either don't care or openly resent the idea that women have ownership over themselves. You can see how the Bush family mirrors this divide that's common enough in American families--the Bush men are anti-choice and the Bush women are pro-choice. But I honestly am surprised that there's a gender gap in willingness to sympathize with the plight of an incest victim, I really am.

I'm probably making too much of this--the gender gap probably was caused more by Bush's rudeness and bullying. (Though even with that, it's alarming that more men than women are taken in by his crap.) But it seems to me that examples like that--incest victims, women whose lives are in danger--should narrow, not widen the gender gap on abortion. While it's somewhat understandable that more women than men would see the need to be free to end a pregnancy simply because a baby is unwanted, I just cannot see why men aren't just as frightened as women at the possibility that illegal abortion could cause women to die or be forced to bear the children of their victimizers.

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